Frequently Asked Questions

What is ReSensation™?

ReSensation™ is a highly advanced technique of performing breast neurotization using allograft nerve tissue developed by AxoGen. AxoGen has over 10 years of experience as a leader in surgical solutions for peripheral nerve repair. During free flap breast reconstruction surgery, the surgeon can bridge the gap between the nerves in the free flap and nerves in the chest wall, potentially enabling sensory nerve regeneration and restoration of sensation in the new breast.

What is breast neurotization?

Neurotization is a procedure to repair nerves that have been severed or damaged with the goal of restoring function. This may include restoring either movement (motor nerves) or sensation (sensory nerves). Breast neurotization is performed as part of autologous breast reconstructive surgery and reconnects some of sensory nerves in the chest that are cut during a mastectomy with those in the free flap. By reconnecting these nerves, patients have the possibility of renewed breast sensation.

Why do women lose breast sensation after mastectomy?

During a mastectomy, the breast tissue is removed, severing the nerves that provide feeling to the breast, skin and nipple. When nerves are severed, nerve signals are disrupted. This usually results in numbness and loss of feeling in the breast area.

What exactly is free flap breast reconstruction with ReSensation?

This type of reconstruction enables breast surgeons to use the allograft nerve tissue to reconnect nerves. This potentially offers sensation to your newly restored breast.

What is autologous (free flap) breast reconstruction?

Autologous, or free flap, breast reconstruction uses your body’s own tissue – a free flap – to rebuild a warm, natural-looking breast that ages and changes with you. The flap tissue usually comes from the abdomen, buttocks, inner thighs or back. This flap is moved to the chest and rebuilt into a breast mound. Using magnification during surgery, the surgeon reattaches blood vessels in the flap to those in the chest.

Am I a candidate for ReSensation?

You may be a candidate for breast neurotization with ReSensation if you are considering or undergoing an autologous breast reconstruction using a free flap, such as the DIEP flap surgery. Talk to your plastic surgeon to see if you are a candidate, but keep in mind that many surgeons do not yet offer ReSensation. Find a surgeon who offers breast neurotization using our ReSensation locator.

When is breast neurotization with ReSensation performed?

Breast neurotization with ReSensation is performed at the same time as free flap breast reconstruction.

ReSensation can be performed during an immediate reconstruction (at the same time as the mastectomy) or a delayed reconstruction (months or years after the mastectomy). In some cases, ReSensation may be performed along with an autologous reconstruction as a revision to a failed implant reconstruction. You and your plastic surgeon can determine the right timing based on your desires, medical condition and cancer treatment.

When can reconstruction surgery with ReSensation be performed?

This procedure can be performed during your mastectomy (immediate reconstruction), or after your mastectomy (delayed reconstruction). You and your breast surgeon can determine the right timing based on your desires, medical condition and cancer treatment.

Can ReSensation be performed during breast implant reconstruction?

ReSensation cannot be performed during breast implant reconstruction. Implants are artificial and do not contain nerves that are needed to potentially restore sensation.

How does losing breast sensation after mastectomy affect women?

Loss of breast sensation after mastectomy can have a negative impact on quality of life. Research has shown that loss of breast sensation can affect body image and psychological health, as well as risk of injury.1,2 For many women, breasts they cannot feel do not feel like their own.3

1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5351438/
2https://journals.lww.com/prsgo/fulltext/2016/10000/Thermal_Injury_to_Reconstructed_Breasts_from.8.aspx
3https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/reconstruction-surgery/what-to-expect-after-breast-reconstruction-surgery.html

Why is ReSensation a potentially important advancement for women
after mastectomy?

Historically, sensory nerves were not repaired during breast reconstruction surgery, leaving women with limited to no return of sensation. Though reconstructed breasts can achieve cosmetically desirable results – size, shape, softness and symmetry – women typically cannot feel touch or temperature in the chest area after reconstruction. With ReSensation, women have the potential to restore lost sensation in reconstructed breasts. The ReSensation technique allows the surgeon to bridge a gap between nerves in the free flap and nerves in the chest wall. ReSensation also aims to help preserve the nerves of the abodominal muscles which preserves the muscle tone of the abdomen.

What are the potential benefits of returning sensation to the breasts?

Studies suggest that breast neurotization may provide a variety of benefits in terms of physical safety, body image, emotional health and overall quality of life.4 For example, a recent study found that neurotization had a positive impact on women’s quality of life after mastectomy. Specifically, the study found that women who had neurotization as part of their DIEP flap surgery, a common type of free flap breast reconstruction, reported a greater sense of physical well-being of the chest than women who did not have neurotization. Women with neurotization were also more likely to report their reconstructed breasts “felt like their own.”5

4https://insights.ovid.com/crossref?an=00006534-200911000-00006
5https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10549-017-4547-3

How long does it take to restore some level of feeling after
breast neurotization?

It takes time for nerves to heal and grow after breast neurotization. Nerves typically grow 1-2 millimeters a day.6 (For comparison, a dime is about 1 millimeter thick.)

Plastic surgeons who perform the procedure report that women typically start to regain sensation several months after neurotization and the feelings can continue to develop for up to two years.7 AxoGen is leading the effort to collect more data on outcomes through our Sensation-NOW™ registry.

6https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4408553/
7https://insights.ovid.com/pubmed?pmid=11994590

What type of surgeon performs ReSensation?

ReSensation is performed by breast reconstruction plastic surgeons specializing in microsurgery. Microsurgery is a type of surgery that must be performed under magnification using precision instrumentation to repair intricate blood vessels and nerves.

Only specially trained breast reconstructive plastic surgeons offer ReSensation. To find a surgeon in your area, go to our ReSensation locator.

Where can I find a surgeon who performs ReSensation?

Breast neurotization with ReSensation is performed by a growing number of plastic surgeons with expertise in microsurgery. Find a surgeon who offers breast neurotization using our ReSensation locator.